“Occupy Chicago” wants to forgive student loans. Your student loan bailout should be through bankruptcy!

The “Occupy Wall Street” movement has created many spinoff movements all over the country like the one here in San Diego.  After hearing criticism for their lack of coherent demands, the “Occupy Chicago” chapter came out with a list of demands on Monday.  Among other things, like taxing the wealthy and attacking Wall Street, they want student loans forgiven.  I argued in a blog that I posted Sunday on the Occupy San Diego movement that student loans should be dischargeable in bankruptcy.

In the face of the bailouts that Wall Street firms and banks received more and more people are asking “where is our bailout”?  Regular people have a tremendous amount of debt which they cannot afford and they believe that justice demands that they need some consideration from government.  It is true that almost 50% of people pay no income taxes but should we bailout the 99% with massive wealth transfers?

I say no.   Most people in this country will not go for that.  I have argued for years on my blog that a bailout plan already exists for the 99% of us that are neither rich nor giant corporations.  It’s called bankruptcy and bankruptcy allows you to legally walk away from your debts and have them discharged so you no longer owe them.  You can then get a fresh start debt free and keep what money you earn from employment.  Everyone can avail themselves of bankruptcy.  You don’t have to be a privileged person or corporation to get it.  In fact if you make too much money you will be means tested out of a chapter 7.

So bankruptcy is available for regular people but there is a problem.  Student loans cannot be included in bankruptcy.  Student loans currently are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.   They do therefore indeed last forever or until you allege “undue hardship” which is very hard to prove.  If these student loans were to be included in the lists of debts that people could discharge in bankruptcy then regular people would not be saddled with them forever.  They could escape them and move on in life with their student loans forgiven.

This could be done so much more easily and fairly in the context of bankruptcy than through some government blanket forgiveness.  Bankruptcy has been around for hundreds of years and the systems are in place to handle forgiveness of debt through the filing of bankruptcy.  There are trustees and judges to oversee each individual to make sure that the people asking for forgiveness really can’t afford to pay these debts back because the have neither the income or assets to do so.

In bankruptcy there are even proscribed exemptions that allow each person to keep a certain amount of property.  For most of the 99% this would amount to people keeping all of their property because most people don’t have more than these allowed exemption amounts.

This solution will also be so much more palatable to the American public.  It allows the forgiveness of the student loan debt but within the confines of the bankruptcy system.  Each individual would have to file for bankruptcy to get his student loan debt forgiveness.  He would then be examined by a Trustee and he would face a judge if fraud or other problems came up.   His income and expenses would be looked at to determine that he could not pay his debts with his current income and thus he is formally bankrupt. Those who could afford to pay the loans would then have to do so in some form but many many student loan debtors would be able to escape these loans if they were dischargeable in bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy is no blanket gift.

And it would be fair.  Many people with student loans cannot afford to pay these loans and they have very little hope of paying them back.  They are under employed or more likely unemployed and they cannot afford their living expenses let alone these student loans that have not even landed them a job.  It is simply not fair that a person who used their credit cards to excess can discharge those debts but the person trying to get an education and a job can never escape them even if they have no money and no job.

But many people will say that if we make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy then student loans will be harder to get.   Maybe that is a good thing and people won’t borrow money for degrees that won’t lead to a job.  But I also believe that as credit cards are still obtainable by most people today and they are dischargeable in bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy has not stopped that industry and dischargeable student loans will not stop lenders from lending money for these loans either.

It also should not matter whether the loans are government or private.  If  they are private then the loans should be treated like credit cards and if government loans are owed then forgiveness of these loans is only fair in light of the bailouts given by the government to the financial industry.  Whether government or private though the effect is the same on people.  They can’t afford to pay them back in many cases.  (Remember also that IRS tax debt is dischargeable after only 3 years and the IRS still continues to operate).

And for further fairness you could make student loans dischargeable after a period of time say 10 or even 20 years.  If the student has not paid them back by that time then they are certainly having a problem and they probably can’t pay them back.  It is only fair to allow people to escape them in time.

I am a bankruptcy attorney practicing bankruptcy law in San Diego, CA.   For further information please visit my website at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshsatartsandiego.com.   Or call my office for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.  If you or someone you know are considering bankruptcy then get my Free e-book “13 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BANKRUPCTY FILING” by e-mailing me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

New bankruptcy law (AB 929) will likely allow you to keep more property in bankruptcy in California if it passes!

AB 929 is a bill has passed the assembly and is now in the California senate and will be taken up by the Senate Appropriations committee soon.  This bill is good news for all who file bankruptcy in the state of California because it increases the allowable exemptions in bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy exemptions are the mechanisms that allow debtors to keep property in bankruptcy and they prevent the bankruptcy trustees from seizing those assets to pay debts.

Of course the bankruptcy trustees are against this bill because it would mean that they get paid less because they are paid when they seize and sell property in bankruptcy for the benefit of creditors.  The law establishes higher levels of exemptions for property like vehicles, jewelry, works of art, and tools of the trade (business equipment).

These changes in the law will allow many more people to file for bankruptcy if they have a lot of personal property.  Many of my clients before would lose property in a bankruptcy if they filed so they chose to not file.  As a result of this law the number of bankruptcies is bound to go up in California.

Most important of the exemption increases is the homestead exemption.  That is the one that allows you to keep your house and the equity in it.  The individual homestead exemption is set to go up from $75,000 to $150,000.  The family exemption from $100,000 to $250,000, and the elderly/disabled/low-income will go up from $175,000 to $350,000.  These increases are huge and mean a lot.  Many of my clients who could not file before will now qualify for a Chapter 7 full discharge bankruptcy.  This is great news if you have equity in a home and many people still do in California.

These bankruptcy filers can now keep their home in a bankruptcy even if they have a great deal of equity. in their home.  With the new loan restrictions instituted by the banks the equity is only on paper anyway.  They cannot access it like they could 3 or 4 years ago because they would never get approved for an equity loan without perfect credit and perfect income.  The reality is that if people have these things then they do not usually need bankruptcy.

Most people who do consider bankruptcy have a large amount of unsecured credit card deb which they are usually behind paying on so their credit score is down.  If they have lost a job or have had an illness or an auto repossessed then they are in even greater need of a bankruptcy but are extremely unlikely to secure an equity loan.

So I would argue that this is good law that allows people top keep not only more of their personal belongings but also allows them to keep their house and still discharge their debts.  Fewer people will therefore forced out of bankruptcy and into limbo where they can neither file nor pay their debts.  It is a good day for bankruptcy filers.

I am a practicing bankruptcy attorney in San Diego.  You can visit my website at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.  Call now for free credit report and analysis!

For a free e-book: “13 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BANKRUPTCY FILING” please send a request by e-mail to: farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Do I need an attorney to file for bankruptcy?

The short answer is yes!  Don’t try to file a bankruptcy without one!

Your attorney will know the law first and foremost.  The attorney will know if you have too much property or income for instance as he will do a means test calculation for you as is required by the law.  I recently came in on a bankruptcy case where a bankruptcy filer should never have filed a case because this person had non-exempt income or assets.

The trustee just claimed all of those assets for the creditors as they will do when there are assets available to seize.  If an experienced bankruptcy attorney would have been consulted in the beginning then they could have advised the client not to file for bankruptcy at all in that case.

The client could have saved the filing fee, attorney’s fees, administrative fees and they could have worked out a deal to pay the debts back.  As it turned out the client had to surrender assets necessary to pay all of these costs and he had to pay the debts back in full.  It would have been much cheaper not to file bankruptcy in the first place and to make matters worse the clients assets were tied up for over a year.

Secondly you need an attorney because the attorney will know the bankruptcy procedures.  Filing for bankruptcy requires many procedural steps which are difficult for the novice to comply with.  An attorney will file the case electronically with special bankruptcy software that automatically complies with the procedural requirements of the court.  I have seen many filers in 341 hearings who didn’t know what they were doing so they made serious errors.  These errors usually result in delays and continuances and sometimes in dismissals of the bankruptcy case.

If the case is dismissed then the debts come back into play and the whole reason for filing is negated.  Now you have lost the filing fee and you will suffer other penalties like losing the automatic stay for a year.

Thirdly you need an attorney because if you hire one you should get an expert who knows the law,and  the procedure but also someone who knows the trustees.  Each bankruptcy trustee is a little different and each has slightly different requirements.  An experienced attorney will know what each one needs and what each one likes to receive in terms of supporting documentation.  This will inevitably help you through the process in the smoothest and quickest fashion.

Lastly with an attorney you get someone to accompany you through the process.  I accompany all of my clients to the 341 meeting of creditors and I am available for any questions that they might have about the process at any time.  This helps people to have fewer fears and worries about something that people naturally are very scared about.

So there are many reasons to hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney to help with your bankruptcy.  Remember too that the attorney is the only one that can represent you in court in the unlikely event that things go badly.  So if you are considering bankruptcy then hire an attorney and don’t do it yourself!

I practice bankruptcy law in San Diego California.  Please visit my website for more information on filing bankruptcy at: www.farquharlaw.com.